It is no secret that Black founders face an uphill battle in Silicon Valley, with just a sliver of the investment pie being devoted to people of color. BLCK VC, along with partners Operator Collective, Salesforce Ventures and Berkeley Haas School of Business, is hoping to change that, and today the group announced the Black Venture Institute, an educational initiative dedicated to helping Black operators become angel investors.
The program has a goal of training 300 students over the next three years to create a network of Black investors and advisors who can begin writing checks to make investments. This is an attempt by these groups to bring some meaningful change to an entrenched investment system. In fact, BLCK VC was formed in 2018 with this goal in mind.
Frederik Groce, principal at Storm Ventures and co-founder of BLCK VC, says that venture capital clearly has an access problem, and this program is about trying to open up these closed networks.
“It is these closed networks that have helped contribute to the lack of access for the Black community over the years. Black Venture Institute is a structural attempt to create access for Black operators — from engineers to product marketing managers,” Groce told TechCrunch.
He added that this is about helping these operators understand how to have a role in the venture capital ecosystem. “We are attempting to equip Black technologists and tech operators with the knowledge and tools they need to better understand the industry and hopefully begin to engage within it as scouts, limited partners, angel investors — and potentially support career transitions into the industry.”
As Leyla Seka, investment partner at Operator Collective, describes it, the idea is to create a curriculum to train Black entrepreneurs on the fundamentals of venture investing by bringing together a group of experienced people to help explain how the system works.
“It takes time to learn the terms, understand the process and make the connections. Some people grew up in that world, absorbing this knowledge through osmosis, but others need a leg up,” she said.
Salesforce Ventures, which launched the $100 million Impact Fund last week to invest in cloud startups focused on social change, says that helping with this venture is part of the firm’s strong commitment to social justice.
“Without intentional action, we are destined to fall into the same insular cycle that has delivered low representation in the past. It is our belief that by making venture capital knowledge and networks more accessible, we can help empower the Black technology community and provide a path to accelerate innovation, opportunity and access,” the firm said in a statement.
To give you a sense of what Black founders are up against, a 2018 Harlem Capital Report found that since 2000 — the previous 18 years to that point — just 105 firms with all Black founders received funding of $1 million or more. These numbers are stark and point to an unequal funding climate and the need for more programs like this one.